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Election reform at the CNN/YouTube debate… oh, nevermind.

Saturday, December 1st, 2007


What is the role of the media in the presidential campaign process? Should how presidential debates are administered be included in discussions of election reform?

In effect, these are questions the LA Times’ Tim Rutten raises this morning in his blistering critique of CNN for its handling of last week’s supposedly “bottom-up” CNN/YouTube debate.

Rutten writes:

The United States is at war in the Middle East and Central Asia, the economy is writhing like a snake with a broken back, oil prices are relentlessly climbing toward $100 a barrel and an increasing number of Americans just can’t afford to be sick with anything that won’t be treated with aspirin and bed rest.

So, when CNN brought the Republican presidential candidates together this week for what is loosely termed a “debate,” what did the country get but a discussion of immigration, Biblical inerrancy and the propriety of flying the Confederate flag?

Rutten goes on to cite ongoing Pew surveys of the issues Americans most care about, and none of the issues in the aforementioned “discussion” were included in the top-tier.

At the debate (which Why Tuesday? attended), there wasn’t a single question asked about the state of our voting system even though the United States ranks 139th out of 172 countries in the world in the level of voter participation. If, as Thomas Paine wrote, voting is truly the right on which all others depend, then why aren’t we hearing about election reform from our presidential candidates – and more importantly – why isn’t the media asking them about the state of our voting system?

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